I recently decided to try out the new Custom Blend Maker on World of Wools. The thought of being able to make my own custom fibre blends for spinning was quite exciting, especially as my old favourite fibre supplier, Forest Fibres, went into retirement towards the end of 2012.
One thing that held me back a bit from trying the blend maker at first, is that it’s a little difficult to tell what the results will be. When you consider that the minimum order is 500g – half a kilo – that’s a big investment for an unknown result.
However, I received a little money at Christmas and decided to allocate some of it to treating myself to some fibre. The blend maker is easy to use, and very versatile. Up to eight ingredients can be added to your recipe, represented by eight white boxes. Each box represents a percentage of the overall fibre mix, so you can easily alter the ratio of yarns used by filling multiple boxes with the same yarn.
For example, here I am making a fibre that is 50% merino in “aubergine”, 25% chartreuse merino and 25% mulberry silk. But you could also add synthetic fibres, different breeds such as blue-faced leicester or corriedale, or add anything from flax to alpaca. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to add textural ingredients, like nepps, due to limitations of the carding machine, but you can always order nepps separately and add them by hand.
Once you’ve added the fibres you want in your custom blend, it’s a simple matter to select how much you want and specify how many “blending cycles” – that is, how many times the fibres you’ve chosen will be run through the carding machine they use. The blending cycles option includes a preview of what a yarn might look like, but isn’t specific to the colours you’ve chosen, and it can be a little tricky to work out how a specific blend will look based on the previews shown.One thing I really like is that you don’t have to order a blend as soon as you’ve designed it. You can name blends and save them, building up a collection of ideas you’ve had. As you order those blends, you can also add photos of them to your collection, making it easier to choose the specific blend you need at any given time. It’s also possible to open up a saved blend and make changes to it before ordering, so if you want to reorder a colourful merino blend, but see what it’s like with a little yak fibre, or less aubergine, you can do so. The whole process is designed to make it fun to experiment, and easy to build up a collection of blends that you can reorder whenever you need them. Overall, it’s a great way of picking up new fibres to play with. However, as I said earlier in my post it can feel a little daunting to actually order a blend, not knowing exactly what to expect when it arrives. It’s be nice to see more examples of what different blends look like, blended to different amounts. I wonder whether adding a shot of complimentary colour to an otherwise fairly consistent blend, such as adding chartreuse to a deep purple mix, would look fantastic, or just messy. With that in mind, I’m going to share my experiences on here in later posts. Every time I order a blend, I’ll post the blend details and pictures of the fibre I receive both as-it-arrives, and at different stages of being spun and knit.